Startled out of her reverie, Ruthie looked up from the cloth lying in her lap, as her husband Caleb, burst through the door. His face was a mask of pain and fear. Blood dripped from his body onto the dirt floor. Somehow he looked smaller than his six foot, eight-inch frame. Beaten. Weary. Defeated. “Massa done beat me again. Where’s the chil’un at? We gotta run. I cain’t take dis no mo.”
“But Caleb, where’s we gonna go?” Ruthie started to cry. Great gulping sobs shook her body. Realizing she hadn’t even acknowledged Caleb’s pain, she slowly rose from her chair. She felt as if her arms were dead weight against her body, so heavy was her sorrow. Ruthie gently led Caleb to the cot in the corner of the room. Coming to herself, she moved swiftly around the small, dark room, gathering supplies as she went. Tears started flowing afresh as she began cleaning Caleb’s wounds. He winced, stiffening against the pain. “Oh Caleb! Why’s Massa have to beat you? You ain’t done nothin’ ta deserve dis kinda treatment!”
“Ruthie, we slaves! Dat’s reason ‘nuf in da Massa’s eyes, you knows dat. Dat’s why we gotta run. Soon’s we can.”
Thankfully the children were playing outdoors. Caleb and Ruthie tried to shield them from this as much as possible, keeping their home life carefree and loving, despite the anguish they faced daily.
“Mebbe we won’t havta run effen dis war ends soon. There’s talk dat Abraham Lincoln’s gonna free us all!” Ruthie said, her voice quivering with joy.
“Hmmm. “You jes might be right, Ruthie. You jes might be right. Umm-hmm. Les jes bide our time…” he said as he sat up and grabbed a clean shirt and put it on.
Ruthie began dinner preparations. They didn’t have much, being slaves. What they did have; she made the most of. The small wooden table where they took their meals was set with tin dishes. She had taken a worn crock, cracked with age, and filled it with wild flowers; Black-Eyed Susan, Trillium, Virginia Cowslip, and Wild Columbine. She had put it in the middle of the table on a bright blue square of fabric. The centerpiece added a splash of color to the otherwise drab gray interior. There were no windows in the cabin. The only light came in through the door, which was wonderful on sunny days when the sun’s rays cast pretty patterns on the floor as it shone through the leafy branches of the trees just outside.
Her dinner preparations finished, Ruthie called the children in. Caleb, hearing her, took his place beside the table on a rickety chair.
“Les pray,” said Caleb, looking with love at each member of the family, now gathered around the table. As he did, they joined hands. “Heavenly Father, we thank you fer dis food you provided for us. We pray dat you bless it to our bodies and make us fit for da work you have given us to do. He’p me Lawd, to be da man dat you wants me to be and he’p my chil’un to grow up servin’ you no matta what comes their way. He’p my wife to honor you in all she does. Thank you Lawd. A-mehn.
Laughter punctuated the air as the children talked about their day. “Daddy! We gots to build a cage!” said wee Delia.
“Why’s dat chile?”
“Cuz! We find a wabbit!” she said, her toothless grin brightening her face.
The children chattered on about the rabbit, their parents exchanging amused glances over their heads.
A few hours later when the children were tucked in bed, Caleb and Ruthie stood outside gazing at the stars. Ruthie leaned into Caleb’s chest, asking, “How’s yer back?”
“It be alright, woman, thanks to you. Dat beatin’ weren’t as bad as some.”
“Aw, Caleb. I hope we can git outta dis life soon…”
“I knows you do, hun, I knows. I want out to. Les be thankful we got each other. So many’s bein’ sold. We still gots our fambily and we got a roof o’er our heads.”
“But we don’t own nothin’!” Ruthie said, bitterness tingeing her voice.
“True ‘nuf, love, but we been able to make what’s we got a home and dat’s all dat really mattas. Les be thankful wit dat.”
“You’s right. I’s ferget myself sometimes…”
Together they bowed their heads and thanked the Lord for the home they were able to make for their family.
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